stan the man
my father passed away on february 24th, 2011, twenty one days after his seventy second birthday. it was a heart attack, caused by choking or some such mundane thing. the nursing home sent him to roxborough, though his usual hospital digs were at lankenau. they said it was closer, yet, after a quick bit of googling it was obvious that lankenau was closer by a fraction of a mile. he’d beaten heart attacks, a stroke, having one kidney, and many a handicapper at the races, but this is the one that got him.
he didn’t like being in the nursing home. the food stunk. he didn’t want to do the physical therapy. people were crazy. he once asked me if i’d mistakenly placed him in a mental institution. so much medicine, too many times a day. no off track betting to watch. they’d taken his horse racing channel off the air waves, so he never bothered turning the television on even after i replaced the batteries in his remote control a number of times and assured him that he had cable. i told him when it got warm i’d take him for a walk outside in his wheelchair and bring him a tongue sandwich. we would have a little picnic.
it rained on the day we buried him and that somehow made sense. my uncle, cousins and i took a look at him as he lay there in his coffin at the funeral home. alex mentioned that he looked a bit like a villain from a western due to how they’d shaped up his facial hair. it was good to smile. i wondered what he might say about his new look.
as i watched friends and family carry him outside, i lost it. jen led me back to the family grieving chamber or whatever it is they call it before we made our way out to the limousine.
mud is harder to shovel than dry soil. our feet sunk into the soaked earth as we walked through the rows. dried footprints still line the walkway to the door of our house a month and a half later.
we sat shiva there. family and friends were wonderfully supportive. food overflowed from our table. there was a fish platter. this was imperative.
there are glass horse statuettes on a bookcase in our living room- not our cup of tea, but i don’t quite know what to do with them. i miss my dad. i miss his voice on the phone, his questions about my wife, our house, our garden, my artwork, the parts of the family i talk to more than he does, the weather, my friend the chef, my friend the actor, my friend the guy with muscles, that girl with the scratchy voice from across the neighborhood, my inlaws…
we had a tough time as i grew into myself finding common ground, but it was there at times. he had his way and i always had to test his boundaries. many things we simply could never agree on, but in the end we were able to laugh with and at one another without harsh words. in the last few years of his life, he made sure to tell me that he was proud of me and that he loved me on a regular basis.
he was bigger than life, a real distinct personality. love him or hate him, he was, and ever shall be, stan the man.
i love you, dad.